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Franciscan manzanita added to U.S. endangered list

September 4, 2012 |  3:08 pm

Franciscan manzanita
The Franciscan manzanita -– a plant so rare that only one is believed to be growing in the wild -– has been declared officially endangered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in a decision that will be announced Wednesday.

The designation “implements the federal protections provided” by the Endangered Species Act, the agency said in documents that will be published in the Federal Register. “We are simultaneously publishing a proposed rule to designate critical habitat for the Arctostaphylos franciscana.”

The manzanita  was believed to be extinct until 2009, when a sharp-eyed botanist saw the lonely plant on a traffic island in the middle of a busy highway, part of a major construction project near the Golden Gate Bridge. The shrub eventually was dug up and moved to a secret spot in the Presidio of San Francisco.

News of the designation “is a very pleasant way to get back to work after Labor Day,” Brent Plater, executive director of the Wild Equity Institute, said in an interview. The institute petitioned the federal government to protect the plant. “It’s good news for the species.”

The designation will become final 30 days after publication. The agency will take public comment for 60 days on whether to designate more than 300 acres of critical habitat for the manzanita.

“The Endangered Species Act gives us the best tools available to protect and recover the rediscovered Franciscan manzanita," Plater said in a written statement. "Coupled with the Bay Area’s best minds in the manzanita business, the day will come when this species is once again a functioning part of our biological community.”

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-- Maria L. La Ganga in San Francisco

Photo: Crews remove a Franciscan manzanita plant spotted on a traffic island near the Golden Gate Bridge. Credit: Daniel Gluesenkamp

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